Every year, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments (OSPAR 2022; IUCN 2021). Not only marine species suffer from this issue by ingesting or being entangled by plastic debris, which causes severe injuries and death. Plastic pollution also threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and further contributes to climate change. Furthermore, a significant share of marine litter reaches the sea via rivers and inland waterways. An integrated approach to identify, remove, and reduce this riverine waste can make an important contribution to the elimination of plastic soup. As the North Sea environment does not abide by socially constructed territorial borders and national or regional jurisdictions, transnational cooperation and coordinated exchange is urgently needed to develop effective and lasting solutions to prevent and reduce the outflow of plastic into the North Sea environment.
There still exist critical knowledge gaps, not only about the whereabouts of plastic in waterways and their flux into the North Sea, but there are also only fragmented governance structures on all levels. Based on tested local practical experiences in the partner regions, TREASURE will fill these existing gaps in the European plastic pollution governance by establishing transnational solutions to reduce plastic pollution in the marine environment.